Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: Ch. 14

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Chapter 14

During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servantsh were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that "he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank—such affability and condescensiond, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both of the discoursesw which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrillew in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood nor to his leaving the parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage, where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself—some shelves in the closet upstairs."

"That is all very proper and civil, I am sure," said Mrs. Bennet, "and I dare say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great ladies in general are not more like her. Does she live near you, sir?"

"The garden in which stands my humble aboded is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship's residence."

"I think you said she was a widow, sir? Has she any family?"

"She has only one daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very extensive property."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, "then she is better off than many girls. And what sort of young lady is she? Is she handsome?"

"She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine herself says that, in point of true beauty, Miss de Bourgh is far superior to the handsomest of her sex, because there is that in her features which marks the young lady of distinguished birth. She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her from making that progress in many accomplishments which she could not have otherwise failed of, as I am informed by the lady who superintended her education, and who still resides with them. But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in her little phaetonw and ponies."

"Has she been presentedw? I do not remember her name among the ladies at court."

X [h] servants

People

Eight diners, and so in this household as many as four and as few as two servants. Labor was cheaper than the food, though the servants would have been given room and board (second table: different food), and livery.

X [d] condescension

He praises Lady Catherine for a quality most would find unbearable.

X [w] discourses

Sermons, but he wants to suggest by the word that his work is weightier and more philosophical.

X [w] quadrille

Amusements

Like gin, hearts, or bridge, "A trick-taking card game for four players using a pack of forty cards (without the eights, nines, and tens of the ordinary pack)" (OED). Quadrille morphed into whist.

X [d] my humble abode

Writing & Reading

A refrain with Collins, who thrills to the use of the word "humble."

X [w] phaeton

Transportation

"A type of light four-wheeled open carriage, usually drawn by a pair of horses, and having one or two seats facing forward" (OED).

X [w] presented

At court; the most exalted form of debut or coming out.